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Photo by Francisco Suarez on Unsplash

Since new year, I’ve taken to walking these empty streets
At 3am. So quiet, you’d think a nuclear device had wiped out
All the people, left the buildings intact.
Stopped twice by the cops. ‘Can we inquire…’
You could tell they were English. No less the servants
Of a repressive state. Told them I was thinking
They didn’t know what to make of that.
‘Are you within 5 ,miles of your home?’ Sir’
Sir, as still not sure if I was hoi polloi or an eccentric
Who knew the boss. Decided not to take the chance. So I left.
I continued the to-and-fro engendered in these empty streets.
It was, conformist people blew our dreams away
Before I could even say ‘I love you so’.
Along these empty streets the scattered
Snow in the icy air tells me, again, you’re not there.
I took you into my dreams before I even knew
You existed and all the twists of life bounded
Me to you. But who can see the end of life
In this storm of wind and cold and being young?
Do not tell me that the stars still shine
They are just God’s joke at our expense.
A life is lent, not given, borrowed on a whim
From accident, we hoped that serendipity
Was mistress of our intent. But luck and chance
Conspired to come too late and fate took over. …

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Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

The last time I saw Bill was when I took him to lay a wreath on his wife’s grave
Just before Christmas. A week later Bill was dead. A massive heart attack took him dead on cue.
From a single parent family in the 1930s, brought up above a shop, no chances offered, no respect. That was his lot.
He joined the British army as a teenager (a new word then) and toured the trouble spots of the world. He had friends.
Told me it made him grateful for the little his mum had had.
Then it was the merchant marine, skivvying on ships, he called it. Jaundice ended that.
Now in his thirties, in the radical 60s, he mended canals, heavy, itinerant work, he never shirked
Living in a caravan he told me about the rain and the snow and the hail.
But it was work. Money. He avoided irony when he spoke of the welfare state Never had it so good. Some hope.
If I’d have been Irish, they’d have called me a navvy, he said. He kept a sense of common decency intact.
There was no barrier between Bill and I. We spoke honestly. Respected each other.
He found love in late middle-age and found a form of frugality too. Guts he’d always had a-plenty.
The last thing I heard, he was wondering how to pay for his TV license. …


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Photo by Marian Kroell on Unsplash

Sky and sea and land, these three amigos,
like love and fate,
lately delayed the day the dreadful daylight starts
of unkept promises and broken hearts.

God’s dying conspired to extinguish every ounce of youth and beauty
to send us scurrying to the heaven-sent skies,
or some dreamy city of the sultry south,
where word of mouth only carries a smidgen of meaning,
and that’s as far as it goes, no proof allowed, fingers, feet or toes?

She points at fragrances, shatters ceilings, catches scents of musk
in a roman de la rose, at the close of business,
there’s money to be made in trade in babies, food, body parts, slaves;
human trafficking robs us all of heart
there’s no comfort in knowing this
only a few people have evil hidden deep inside themselves
holocausts cant be bought or sold. …


“Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”
― Dante Alighieri, Inferno

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Photo by Maria Chernetskaya on Unsplash

A rose in December,
snows in July,
far as we know
the unexpected will die.

Common sense has infirmities
deformities, affinities,
with pie in the sky;
we try to get by.

Nothing happens too late
that isn’t taboo
a floating moon slips
above stone-built walls,
a story of endurance:
illiterate, is all.

We don’t know nothing,
I’m certain of that,
a waxing moon lingers in the sky
as centuries float by….

My eyes were deceived by promises
unmade, on the way to the grave;
abiding luck, in a shaman’s eyes,
whispers a stuttering goodbye. …

Place of Recovery

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Photo by Francesca Noemi Marconi on Unsplash

This is the place of recovery
This is where we begin again.
Amharic text reminds us,
As we live beneath the sun,
That she was a warrior,
An Amazon on the run.

When sky was black and yellow as gold,
She was dragged across the sunless sea
By men without a soul:
Her stories and her narrations,
Her lives as yet untold,
Were dumped inside a slavers’ hold.

From slave ships and from factories
Amidst the stinking seas
We hear the triumph of wizened men
These goblins of the sea :
Men who never see the sun;
Nor wonders do behold. …


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Photo by pixpoetry on Unsplash

There’s a body on a mid-winter beach
Bloated by sea water, battered by waves,
The skin an indeterminate grey but the DNA
Gives it away: stomach distended, flesh declined,
Soul departed, a package of flesh left behind,
With seaweed dancing from her open mouth
That once kissed another, a mother, a lover.
Spoke words of comfort to the dying, bereaved:
Religion indeterminate, nationality left behind.
Look at the legs that carried the body
Over rugged mountains, across freezing tundra,
Over deserts thirsty, prickly with heat, across borders.
Look at the eyes which read the newspapers, scanned the phones.
Read holy books, consumed erotic poetry and letters from home.
While a heart that was broken by war, death and disease
gathered the strength to begin life all over again.
That grey mush was a brain that loved to tussle,
Think and debate. Those bloated fingers wrote elegies
That were gateways to all the planets and stars. …


John Edward Marks (JEM)

I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense only — silence, exile, and cunning.

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